In 1984 the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike. The dispute lasted for over a year and was the most bitterly fought since the general strike of 1926, marking a turning point in the struggle between the government and the trade union movement. On 18 June of that year, the Orgreave coking plant was the site of one of the strike’s most violent confrontations. It began in a field near the plant and culminated in a cavalry charge through the village of Orgreave.
Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave, staged seventeen years later, was a spectacular re-enactment of what happened on that day. I
The Battle of Orgreave was filmed by Mike Figgis for Artangel Media and Channel 4, and aired on Sunday, 20 October 2002. The film intercuts dramatic photographic stills from the clashes in 1984 with footage of the clashes re-enacted in 2001, together with moving and powerful testimonies, to tease out the complexities of this bitter struggle.
Mac McLoughlin, a former miner and serving policeman on the field that day, reveals details about the build-up within the police force prior to the stand-off; David Douglass (NUM) talks about the meaning of the confrontation in relation to the trade union movement in England; Stephanie Gregory (Womens’ Support Group) reminisces about the effects on family life; Tony Benn talks about the media’s role in covering up the truth about the strike in 1984; and Jeremy Deller contextualises this event and highlights its contemporary cultural relevance.
A similar approach was taken with the book, which tended up with the title The English Civil War Part II: it contains a series of personal accounts by people who were all in different ways involved with the strike and the re-enactment. For example, there is the story of Mac McLoughlin (former miner and policeman on duty during the strike), who talks about the build up within the police force to that memorable confrontation. Stephanie Gregory (Women Support Group) reminisces about the effects on family life and about how many women supported their partners throughout the strike and afterwards. Finally, Howard Giles, who was involved with the precise orchestration of the re-enactment gives a moment to moment analysis of the battle strategy of the events on 18 June 1984. An excerpt of the foreword by Jeremy can be found here.
The texts are accompanied by a wealth of images, pamphlets, news clippings, photos from people’s personal scrapbooks, song texts, and a section with photographs of the enactment. The accompanying CD contains over an hour of interviews with former miners and some of their wives. It was published in 2002, a year after The Battle of Orgreave took place, and was designed by Struktur.